It sounds so innocent: An email appears in your inbox, subject line “Pikachu Pokemon.” The message speaks of friendship and invites you to visit Pikachu on his website. And the attachment (warning bells going off yet?) features an animation of a bouncing Pikachu.
Yeah. As children discovered during summer 2000, Pikachu is not always your friend.
First detected in June 2000, the Pikachu Pokemon or “Pokey” virus was one of the first malware attacks to target children. Similar to the ILOVEYOU virus, which caught adult users in its trap earlier that year, the Pikachu virus spread via Microsoft Outlook. The attached executable made changes to configuration files, destroying Windows directories. Luckily, users running up-to-date antivirus software received a warning before the deletion of important files.
Targeting a new generation of Pokemon lovers
This wasn’t the only time Pokemon was exploited by the nefarious. During last summer’s Pokemon Go craze, phishing emails asked users to fork over $12.99 per month for a paid edition of the game, warning them that the free game was about to be discontinued. (It wasn’t.) When users clicked through, they were asked to hand over their email credentials.
Scammers also targeted Europeans eager to play Pokemon Go before the game’s continental rollout. Anxious players turned to third-party app stores—where the game they downloaded had the ability to take over their phones.
The moral of the story is, of course, that parents, children, and the fun-loving childless need to proceed with caution. Minemum.com—a confused parent’s guide to the wildly popular game Minecraft—offers a list of safety tips for mods (game add-ons) that can easily be applied to any Internet craze. Think before you click, y’all.